What NOT to say to a quitter

We all want to support our friends and loved ones as much as we can, and quitting smoking should be no exception. Whether it’s a family member you are hoping will finally quit for good or the smoking buddy at work who won’t be nipping outside with you anymore, here are a few things NOT to say when they’re quitting.

‘So, you’re giving quitting another go?’

Most smokers have tried quitting before, maybe once, maybe twice, or maybe even more. Quitting is hard, no matter how many times they try it, and they are probably worried about slipping up again. Try not to be a Negative Nelly. Be proud that they have the strength and willpower to give it another go. Remind them that any previous attempts were just practice runs and that you hope that this time they will succeed!

‘Do you mind if I have one?’

Even if you’re still a smoker, you can still support your friend or family member who is trying to quit. Help them stay strong and resist temptation by not smoking near them. And don’t offer them one of your cigarettes, even if you do miss having a smoking buddy. You also might want to think about giving quitting a go yourself. If you do it together, you can encourage each other through the tough bits – with your friend’s help, it might not be nearly as hard for either of you!

‘I know just what it’s like!’

We’re all different and so is how we go about quitting smoking. Without the ability to read their mind (which we all wish we had), you can’t understand what they are going through, what parts of quitting they are struggling with or if there is anything you can do to help. So, the best thing to do is just ask. Ask if they want to talk, ask how they are doing, ask what you can do for them.

‘Are you worried about putting on weight?’

This is actually quite a common concern for quitters, but there’s no need to make them worry about it anymore than they already are. Try a different tact – offer to get active with them, go for a lunch-time walk or an evening stroll, or even give them some healthy snacks to keep them going.

‘I suppose you’re just going to be moody now.’

It’s true, quitting smoking can affect your quitter’s mood. They may well be stressed and irritable, or even depressed. But that’s because they are going through nicotine withdrawal, which is all part of the quitting process.1 The more understanding you are, the easier it will be for them to get through the hardest part. Just remember, the moods won’t last long, and in the end, people who successfully quit feel generally more positive, less stressed and less anxious than they were even when they were smoking.2

‘If you don’t quit for good, we’re through.’

No one likes an ultimatum, and it rarely turns out well for either party involved. Put the threats aside and focus on supporting your quitter as best you can. Once the worst part is over, you’ll be glad that you stood by them and helped them through it.

‘I quit a while ago – you just need willpower.’

Nicotine is addictive and while some people can quit through sheer willpower, many others struggle. You can help by sharing your own experiences, but don’t forget to remind them that everyone is different and quits in different ways. You could suggest that they see their doctor to help them find a way to successfully quit that will work for them.

‘Just don’t think about it!’

What’s the first thing you think about when someone tells you not to? Exactly! If one of your friends is trying to quit, they might feel like there are constant reminders of smoking all around them: the smell of coffee, a heavy meal at lunch, a whiff of smoke from another smoker. You can’t help them with these triggers, but you can help them with a bit of regular encouragement. Help them remember why they are quitting.

‘But you’ve smoked for ages. What’s the point in quitting?’

Actually, it’s never too late to stop smoking.3 Within just six hours of giving up cigarettes, their heart rate will slow and their blood pressure will reduce. Within a week, their sense of smell and taste will start to come back and within three months they will be coughing less. After just a year, their lungs will be healthier and they will be able to breathe easier.4 There are so many upsides to remind your friend or loved one about, regardless of how long they have been smoking.

‘Just one won’t hurt.’

Smoking is a social habit for many people, so try not to undo your friend’s or loved one’s progress by encouraging them to have one when you’re out together. Respect their decision to quit and don’t tempt them with ‘reasons’ to smoke. Because every cigarette does damage, just one certainly will hurt!

You are an important part of your friends’ and loved ones’ lives. Your opinion, what you say, or what you don’t say matters. So make a difference, make sure you know what NOT to say to a quitter.

©Pfizer 2019. Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney, Australia. PP-CHM-AUS-0228, 04/2019

Benowitz, N.L. (2010). Nicotine Addiction. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(24), pp.2295-2303.

Taylor, G., McNeill, A., Girling, A., Farley, A., Lindson-Hawley, N. and Aveyard, P. (2014). Change in mental health after smoking cessation: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 348, pp.g1151-g1151.

Ellerman, A., Ford, C. and Stillman, S. (2012). Smoking cessation. In: M. Scollo, and M. Winstanley, ed., Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issues., 4th ed. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria, pp.13-16.

Quit Victoria. Health benefits of quitting. Available at http://www.quit.org.au/reasons-to-quit/health-benefits-of-quitting. Accessed 8 March 2019.